As a teenager in Houston, Eric Chase Anderson had something close to an obsession with the U.S. Navy. Twice he tried to get into the Naval Academy and twice he was rejected (bad eyes). In retrospect, it was a good thing. ''My entire idea of the Naval Academy was based on television and books from World War II,'' he says.
Instead of enlisting, Anderson, 31, wrote and illustrated Chuck Dugan Is AWOL, a ''novel with maps'' about a young Navy mid-shipman who goes on the lam to save his family fortune from the machinations of an evil admiral. The story is decorated with meticulous, colorful drawings of frogmen gear and nifty submersible bicycles.
Anderson began creating maps as gifts for family members, which led to assignments to illustrate the DVD covers for Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums, directed by his brother Wes. Both siblings inject a sense of whimsy into their work. ''It's probably genetic,'' explains Wes, 35.
Now, Eric has caught the film bug himself; he's writing a screen adaptation of Chuck Dugan for Warner Bros. (a division of EW parent Time Warner). ''Chuck's learning how to mine harbors and blow up bridges and kill a man silently from behind with a knife, then going home and responding to his personal problems as if it's warfare,'' says Anderson, shrugging off any comparisons to a certain cinematic secret agent. ''He's definitely more heartfelt than James Bond.''